Review: Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer
Posted 12 Apr 2008 at 23:32 by Stephen Thomson
|"The only major drawback is starting all over again, though as stated before, there are some ways around this so it doesn't get too annoying."|
Legends tell the tale of a mysterious land, known as the Land of Golden Condor... All who have attempted to reach this unknown land have failed and mysteriously ended up where they first started. How is this possible you ask? Why don't they die a horrible death when battling enemies? Well, that's because Shiren the Wanderer likes to anoy you and wants to make you throw your DS away and repeatedly hit it with mallet. Yes the game is frustrating, but in the good way. That's right, you heard me, you can get nicely frustrated. If that makes sense...
Shiren the Wanderer is a port of the original JRPG Shiren game that got released in Japan only, back in 1995. Finally a DS incarnation is made and finally you can get your grubby mitts on a copy. "But you said the game makes you frustrated", you ask "Why should we get it?". Well that's because behind the lovable frustration, lies a a challenging and rewarding game. You play as Shiren, a Wanderer (the title makes sense now!) out to find the Land of Golden Condor.
One thing you will know, perhaps even find out in a really harsh way, when you die, is that you start from scratch. That's right, from scratch. You begin slap bang where you started, back to level one, and remember that Katana you fell in love with? That's gone too. It's a game you love to hate. To complete this quest, you must travel and battle through 30 'floors', if you die on any floor, you're flung to right back where you started in the quiet town of Canyon Hamlet. Are you put off? Don't be. There are, thankfully, ways round this to save items from when you die thanks to the warehouse function. Throughout the game you'll come across several of these warehouses in which you can store some of your items, so when you die and start again, you'll have something to start with. Each time you meet Mr Death, thankfully, you don't have to go through the same areas thanks to the random dungeon function, so the game doesn't get repetitive. It makes you want to keep playing after you fall out with it after 10 minutes, and also assuming your DS still works after various tossing you'll yet again try to reach your goal.
Of course let's not forget the new features in the DS version which tries to fix this for the players. If you and a friend have exchanged Friend Codes, when you die you can send out a distress signal, then a friendly face can come and rescue you and bring you back to life so you don't lose your gear. Also for folk without Wi-Fi, there's a password system so you can post your code somewhere on a forum, like N-Europe, enter a code password for someone to save you, they save you, then send a code back for you to enter and you're saved. A nice feature that makes the main drawback more bearable. Though beware, you can only use 3 saves per journey.
Now to move on to the meat of the game, the combat system. Shiren is a rogue-like game, where players move in a turn based fashion. You move once in any direction, enemy moves once it's their turn, once your enemy makes there move your free to make an action. If you're wondering about this turn based part and if the game moves slow, don't think that. You won't think that the game is turn based until you're fighting, since an enemy can't attack until you do, and vice versa. This is where you must start planning your moves properly, as one wrong move and your stung. The system really gets more in-depth the further into the game you get, so you must be careful with what you do. You'll have a time where you are near surrounded by enemies - you can't just charge in and attack them, if you do that you'll die, so you need to use your head. Which brings us onto the next point. Shiren is made in a way that you need to learn from your mistakes since knowledge is vital. As each floor progresses, everything becomes more challenging. You may even encounter a place called the 'Monster House' where you're slammed in a pit with several enemies. Even though you can level up and get stronger, it doesn't mean enemies can't either. In this pit for example, while you try to take out what enemies you can, some may fight each other, the winner of the enemies can level and become much stronger making things harder on your part. Will you be able to take on all of them? It all depends how you play and if you take advice from NPCs.
Throughout the game you'll meet various NPCs with snippets of information on how to help you out through your epic journey. You'll find things such as the warehouse function, how to use jars and information on enemies you encounter later in the game. If you don't consider what they say, you can pretty much kiss your golden land of dreams goodbye. As mentioned before hand, you're advised by a traveller to take a Blast Scroll with you for the Monster House so if you get surrounded, you can kill a good few of them at once making victory a breath away, unless back up arrives, then just pray to the golden land that you have another Blast Scroll tucked away. If you feel a bit like a cannibal, you can, if you want, eat the corpses of your victims to turn into that monster to give you a bit of a boost.
As you journey through the randomly generated floors, you'll come across several items to help you in combat or perhaps to make new items. You can find various staffs on your journey to switch places with enemies, paralyse them so you can run away and try and gain some health, or if you want to act cool, throw a staff or two at them to show 'em who's boss. This is something you really need to use instead of swords since it can really help turn the tide in battle. Another important feature you need to learn is the jars you come across. There's quite a few types of jars, some you can store items in so you can carry more, or perhaps use a change jar to stick some items in for something different.
Apart from the main quest, there's also some side-quests to keep you busy, especially trying to find the quest givers. Some of the quests can make your journey much easier by getting yourself a companion. It really does help out, instead of just you fighting a mob, you can have someone by your side to fend them off, or make a break for it and convince yourself sacrifices are needed to get to the legendary land. Assuming you are noble and fight alongside your new found partner, you get the experience for their kills so you can level much faster. This allows you to save up herbs for when the game gets really hard and even lets you get through floors quicker since over time, Shiren gets hungry, and when he does he needs rice balls to eat. If you have none, you die a horrible death. Unfortunately, you can't eat your talking weasel side kick, Koppa. Instead of dying by the hand of a monster, you must start all over again because you didn't have a rice ball. There's an extra dungeon that you just won't be able to do early on in the game, later however, you'll need to level up a fair amount and upgrade your weapons via the black smith to have a good chance.
Over all, Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer is a game that will keep you busy for hours and hours. The only major drawback is starting again, though as stated before, there are some ways around this so it doesn't get too annoying. With nice lush retro graphics, that shows SNES games can still look good, gentle Japanese music playing in the background to make the experience all that much sweeter, it's a game you should consider getting, especially for mystery dungeon and RPG fans. With side quests, 50 puzzles and a rather high replay value thanks to random floor generating, Shiren will keep you immersed until you eventually pull yourself away. Or if you die...
Check out our final review scores below!
N-Europe Final Verdict
A great experience that shows SNES games can still stand out today. With various side quests,puzzles and bonus dungeons, there's a lot to keep you busy with. The rescue features and Wi-Fi leaderboards makes the game that much more fun.
No floor is the same
Will keep you busy for 30+ hours
Starting from scratch and losing items
Can turn people off